Two more channels, News Network Channel and Mahaamovie, have also been brought under the ambit of the probe into rigging of viewership figures. Sources said the additional IPC sections were added after Republic TV, one of the channels under scanner, refused to part with information sought by the police.
The police had sought details about an internal report prepared by Hansa Research and the vigilance team of the Broadcasting Audience Research Council (BARC), which was aired by the channel on October 10. To measure TRPs, BARC had installed people metres in the homes of select audiences.
BARC had given the contract of monitoring the barometers to Hansa Research. The police added Sections 179 (refusing to answer public servant authorised to question), 174 (non-attendance in obedience to an order from public servant), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender) and 204 (destruction of document to prevent its production as evidence) of the IPC.
Earlier, police had registered the FIR under the IPC sections related to cheating, criminal breach of trust and criminal conspiracy. A police officer said, “Some of these sections have been added as there is noncooperation from the officials of the channels who have been summoned and asked to produce documents.”
Police have been probing the role of three channels — Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema — for inflating viewership figures. Meanwhile, the statements of Republic TV CFO Shiva Sundaram, its distribution head Ghanshyam Singh and executive editor Niranjan Narayanswamy were recorded by the police on Wednesday.
Sundaram has been asked to appear again on Thursday. Republic TV’s COO Priya Mukherjee is also likely to join investigations on Thursday. The two ex-employees of Hansa Research, Dinesh Vishwakarma and Ramji Verma, arrested by the crime branch on Tuesday (two ex-Hansa employees were held before that) were produced before the 37th metropolitan magistrate on Wednesday and remanded in police custody till October 23.
In the remand application, police said Verma and Vishwakarma had said that agents of News Network Channel and Mahaamovie used to pay them to rig TRPs. “We want to investigate and unearth the entire conspiracy. We also want to know how many more relationship managers of Hansa Research were involved in the scam and to examine the flow of money in the bank accounts of Umesh Mishra (another arrested accused) and Verma,” the remand application stated.